Biden to Name Big Tech Critic as Top Antitrust Cop

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The White House said on Tuesday it would nominate Jonathan Kanter as top antitrust officer in the Justice Department, a move that would add longtime Big Tech and corporate concentration to a strong regulatory position.

Mr. Biden’s plan to appoint Mr. Kanter, an antitrust attorney who has made a career in representing rivals to American tech giants like Google and Facebook, shows how strongly the administration is taking sides in the growing field of lawmakers, researchers and regulators. That Silicon Valley has gained enormous power over the way Americans talk to each other, buy products online, and consume news.

Mr. Biden has appointed other critics of Big Tech to key roles, such as the appointment. lina han, an Amazon reviewer, will lead the Federal Trade Commission. Tim Wu, another legal scholar who says regulators should crack down on tech giants, serves in the White House in an economic policy role. And this month, Mr. Biden signed a deal. sweep execution order aimed to increase competition throughout the economy and to limit corporate dominance.

Mr. Kanter, 47, is the founder of the Kanter Law Group, which bills itself online as an “antitrust advocacy boutique.” He previously worked at the law firm of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison. Its services have attracted some of Big Tech’s foremost critics in corporate America, including Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation and Microsoft, as well as startups like Spotify and Yelp.

If confirmed by the Senate, Mr. Kanter will lead a division of the Justice Department, which last year filed a lawsuit alleging Google illegally upholding its monopoly on online search services. The agency’s antitrust division also asks questions about Apple’s business practices.

It’s been more than six months since the White House took the oath of Mr. Biden on Mr. Kanter. The administration had to balance the possibility of Republican support in a divided Senate alongside progressive and moderate factions within its own party.

The resolution garnered immediate approval from policymakers and advocacy groups and helped spearhead blame for stricter competitive practices.

Minnesota Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar, who chairs the Judiciary Committee’s antitrust subcommittee, described Mr. Kanter as an “excellent choice” and referred to his “deep legal experience and history of advocating offensive action.”

Sarah Miller“President Biden has made the perfect choice to lead the DOJ’s antitrust division,” the executive director of the American Economic Freedoms Project, a progressive advocacy group, said in a statement.devoted his career to reinvigorating the practice of antitrust.”

Attorney Makan Delrahim, who led the Justice Department’s antitrust efforts under former President Donald J. Trump, said in a text message that Mr. Kanter would be the department’s “great leader”, describing him as a “serious lawyer” with the private sector. and government experience.

The announcement may have been less well received by deal makers, who helped boost M&A volumes on Wall Street. recording levelswas driven, in part, by an enthusiastic stock market.

The scrutiny of acquisitions in Washington has gone beyond capturing the headlines of Big Tech deals for industries such as consumer goods, agriculture, insurance and healthcare.

The Justice Department filed a lawsuit to block the proposed merger of Aon and Willis Towers Watson. first major antitrust action Since President Biden took office. FTC announced In March, he announced that he was forming a group to “update” its approach to assessing the impact of drug deals, an industry that usually falls within its scope. This followed an earlier report led by Representative Katie Porter, a Democrat from California, which examined deals in the industry.

In recent years, Mr. Kanter has developed an unusual practice of criticizing tech giants from within Washington’s corporate law firms. Tech giants have become lucrative clients for large law firms, often making it harder for those firms to work for their competitors.

But last year, Paul, an elite corporate litigation firm, left Weiss because his portfolio, which represents critics of the tech giants, conflicted with other work the firm did.

“Jonathan made this decision because of a complex legal dispute that would require him to cease important and longstanding client representations and relationships,” the firm said at the time.

Critics of Mr. Kanter are likely to question whether his previous work was a conflict of interest that should have kept him out of investigations into tech giants. Both Facebook and Amazon have asked Ms. Khan to withdraw from company-related matters in the FTC, despite her background as a legal scholar and not a paid representative for her competitors.

When asked if Mr Kanter would withdraw from lawsuits involving Google and Apple, a White House official said he was confident he could move forward with his candidacy, given the management’s expertise and track record.

Even if Mr. Kanter’s vote is upheld, it will likely take months before he takes over the Justice Department. Congress takes a long break in August—that could force Labor Day’s confirmation hearing.

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